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Tempting Auzed: Epilogue

Two Months Later

Alex wiped her sopping face as the lights came on in the traveling dome theater. She peered to Auzed, who grinned with raised brows. It was clear from his eager expression that he wanted her to tell him how she felt about this world’s version of a play.

“It was indescribable. So amazing, honey.”

Auzed’s chest bowed with pride, and he flashed her a smug, toothy smile. “I told you. Better than movies?”

She chuckled. “Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but it was definitely a more intense experience.” Every question he’d had for her about movies now made sense. “How can people do that every day?” She sniffed, watching the actors on the floating platform stage disappear from view. They looked exhausted, and rightly so.

Auzed leaned over and helped her unfasten the clasp of the bodysuit she’d been given. Apparently, on Clecania, plays were a completely immersive experience. Actors weren’t expected to pretend to feel whatever emotion was written—they were expected to actually feel those emotions. The audience members, all connected to the actor of their choice, were clad in head-to-toe suits that allowed them to feel exactly what the actors were.

Alex couldn’t wrap her mind around how it worked, but a combination of incredible electric currents, temperature controls, and spritzes of particular chemical combos made it so Alex actually felt the female actor’s raw pain, joy, and grief in time with her. The experience was overwhelming and yet satisfying in a way she’d never thought possible. No wonder plays were few and far between. The amount of skill needed for each role alone would be enough to make them rare. Not to mention the toll it took on the viewer. She’d loved the experience, but she’d need a bit of downtime before signing up to live in someone’s body again.

“I told you you should’ve picked Rahe your first time. He isn’t as good of an actor, and his role was less emotional according to the guide.” Auzed removed his own suit and hung it nearby in their cube seating area. The small space allowed the scents, holograms, and temperatures choreographed to the scene to feel real. For a second, during the climax, Alex had lost herself and actually believed she’d been Weduta, kneeling in the snow with raw, wet knees, her heart breaking a thousand times over as her family boarded a separate ship leaving old Clecania.

Alex leaned against him as they wound their way through the crowds, using Auzed’s nearness to wash away the last vestiges of sadness. He wrapped his arm around her and proudly nodded at the passersby who stared. They loaded into a cruiser and made their way toward their new home on the outskirts of Tremanta.

“It’s a good thing Wilson is off in Sauven looking for a mate right now, or she’d have broken down the door to get to us.” Alex grinned, twining her fingers with Auzed’s and curling into his big body on the double-wide cushioned bench in the personal cruiser they kept near their out-of-the-way home. Ever since that fateful ceremony day when Auzed had recognized her, Wilson had begun treating him the same way she treated Alex. Though Relli had confirmed what was happening on one of their frequent calls, Alex had already worked it out.

Auzed was her other half. They were bound by whatever magic lurked in a Clecanian’s veins, and as such, Wilson was bonded to him as much as she was to Alex.

The memory of Relli’s explanation jogged something in Alex’s mind, and she sat up. “Oh, I forgot to tell you. I talked to Relli yesterday, and guess what?”

Auzed pulled her back against his body, purring at the contact. “What?”

“They finally made her head ranger!”

“Should’ve been made official a while ago,” Auzed grumbled, fiddling with her hair the way he often did.

Alex shrugged. “Obviously, but at least it’s done.” She gazed at his thoughtful expression and, with some difficulty, pulled away. She tucked a leg under herself and ran her hands up his arms, letting them rest at his shoulders. She’d meant the gesture to be caring, but the hunger that blazed in his eyes showed her he’d taken her touch a different way. She chuckled. “Wait. I want to ask you something.”

He pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes at her suspiciously.

“Are you really okay? I mean, does hearing about Relli’s promotion make you jealous or anything? ’Cause we could always move—”

He flung his head back and swiped a palm over his face. “This again!”

Alex pursed her lips. “It’s just…you got so many prestigious offers off-world, and I don’t want you to not take them because of me, you know?”

He gave her a long-suffering look, then broke it with a lopsided grin. The view of his face transformed by a smile still stole her breath.

“I love my new job,” he crooned, angling his body so he reclined along the bench seat. He pulled her on top of him, and she went without a fight. “I prefer working short hours these days so I can be home with you when you aren’t meeting with the Reclassify Earth group.”

She and a group of humans and Tremantians had formed an official group to handle the human presence on Clecania. In addition to their many hours spent researching intergalactic law and drafting arguments in favor of reclassifying Earth, they’d also started documenting their history and culture for the archives, guessing that if human civilization was more well-known and present in records throughout the Alliance planets, Earth would feel more familiar. They were counting on that familiarity when the time came to decide if Earth was ready to be reassigned.

Alex had begun uploading detailed movie summaries of the greatest films from Earth, while other women outlined famous novels or works of art. Bonny, who’d turned out to be a historian, had been pouring all she knew into the archives for months and still hadn’t made it through prehistory.

Seeing the sheer amount of effort the humans were putting in and the benefit of their hard work, the Queen had decided to make their group official and pay them as employees of the city. Alex got so much fulfillment from her unexpected job, and she worried that Auzed didn’t, though he told her differently whenever she brought it up.

“Yeah, but—” she started to argue.

“No buts. I’m still doing important work. I’m personally training the soldiers who protect my family.” He grinned and tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear. “It feels good. Every time they’re able to land a punch or every time their strategy-exercise scores go up, I feel useful. That’s all I need.”

She folded her arms on his chest and pressed a quick kiss to his chin.

“Besides,” he continued, “remember how excited Wilson got when she saw the forest behind our house? We can’t move her now.”

Their small home with its shady forest backyard and panoramic views of the sunset was the best of both worlds. They often spent their afternoons stretched out by their shielded front-yard pool and their evenings wrapped up together on their large floating bed.

In the mornings when they weren’t working, Auzed would explore new hobbies, trying to find the ones he truly enjoyed. After much experimentation, he’d decided cooking, tinkering with electronics, and reading all failed to hold his interest. But Alex wasn’t complaining because until he found something that appealed to him, he reverted to his favorite pastime of pulling her into their room and making her toes curl.

Over the last week, he’d been experimenting with building, however, and seemed to enjoy it enough. He’d even built Wilson her own special nest area with an entrance on the roof. He insisted on constructing a connecting sheltered tube that would protect her against the sun as she rolled back and forth between the dark forest and the house.

“If she ends up finding a mate, she may return with a litter,” Auzed said, his mind wandering and his brows drawn together. “Do you think she’ll need a bigger nest?”

Love bloomed in her chest at his serious expression. Her family was gonna love him. The thought of them back on Earth still ached, but she forced herself to remain positive these days. They would fall in love with Auzed, just as she had, when they met him. Not if. When.

Still deep in thought, he added, “We’ll have to teach Laura and Cebo not to mess with the litter. They’ll be gliding all over the house in no time.” His brother’s child, Laura, and their alien hound, Cebo, loved to play with Wilson, chasing her all over the house while she rolled and dodged. Whenever Wilson trumpeted from her short trunk, Cebo would howl and Laura would break out into squealing laughter. Unfortunately for Alex’s eardrums, Wilson loved Laura and Cebo as much as they loved her and would try to spur on the laughter and howling whenever she could.

Auzed’s brows were still drawn, and he appeared to be far away, working through how to protect everyone and everything under his roof. Alex bit her lip as electric excitement sizzled through her veins. She hadn’t told him yet, was waiting for the right time. But the warmth and love she felt whenever his family and her human friends got together had stoked a long-forgotten fire in her belly. She wanted to have a child with him. Wanted to see him dashing about like a madman trying to contain a toddler and keep them from getting hurt.

“Could we section off the ceiling for gliding, perhaps?” he murmured under his breath.

Sliding up his body and making sure to rub against every rigid part of him, she snaked her hands around his neck. “I’ve never met such a softy.”

He smirked and clicked his tongue. “You lie.”

“Never to you, Auzzy.” Alex pressed a kiss to his curling lips and let his rumbling purr wash over her.


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